The count mass distinction: Issues and perspectives

Jila Ghomeshi and Diane Massam

in Count and Mass Across Languages

Published in print September 2012 | ISBN: 9780199654277
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191746048 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Studies in Theoretical Linguistics

The count mass distinction: Issues and perspectives

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This chapter presents the issues arising from the study of the count mass distinction in human language. Three core questions are posed. First, do these concepts form part of a universally shared and uniform mental capacity? Second, are the concepts expressed in all languages? And third, are they always realized in the same way in grammars cross-linguistically and if not, what are the various ways that they are encoded in language? The paper places a range of work on the count mass distinction against these three questions, and presents various perspectives found in the literature. The conclusion is that while all humans have the relevant concepts, language can vary as to if and how they are expressed due to the mediating effect of grammar, with the result that there are a variety of realizations of the concepts across languages.

Keywords: count; mass; number; classifier; collective; nominal aspect; determiner

Chapter.  3653 words. 

Subjects: Semantics

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